Andy Murray can turn his attentions to the Davis Cup final after losing a winner-takes-all clash with Stan Wawrinka at the ATP World Tour Finals.
It was a straight fight for the last semi-final spot and it is Wawrinka who will play compatriot Roger Federer in a rematch of last year’s fiery encounter following a 7-6 (7/4) 6-4 victory.
Murray recovered from a break down in the opener but from 4-2 up in the tie-break things fell apart, and the frustrated world No 2 failed to make the last four for the fourth time in six appearances at London’s O2 Arena.
Murray said he “only had himself to blame” after the defeat to Wawrinka.
“There were a few points at the end of the first set where I didn’t play well enough, that’s the reality,” Murray said.
“I made far too many errors on important points in the tie-break. At 4-3 I missed two second serve returns on my backhand and then a couple of cheap errors on the 4-2 point and again at 5-4 so I’ve only got myself to blame.”
It was a question of which Murray would turn up – the one that beat David Ferrer comfortably in his first match or the moody and out-of-sorts character that fell away so badly against Rafael Nadal?
There was also the issue of the Davis Cup next weekend. Wawrinka half-suspected it could have an effect on Murray’s mental state, with the Scot having made it clear beating Belgium was his priority ahead of this tournament.
But the answer came in the third game when Murray strained every sinew to reach a Wawrinka shot and somehow guide a forehand back past the Swiss.
Murray leapt in the air and pumped his fist. Although Wawrinka saved the break point that followed, and another, Murray’s intentions were clear.
But, switched on or not, Wawrinka remained a formidable opponent, and the fourth seed was having one of his good days, pushing Murray back way behind the baseline with the ferocity of his groundstrokes.
Wawrinka made the breakthrough in the eighth game when Murray’s level dropped but could not serve out the set. The Friday night crowd was lively and, at break point down, Wawrinka wanted another first serve after being distracted by an ill-timed shout.
Murray was unmoved and got the break back when Wawrinka failed to put away a volley and found the ball sailing back past him.
The Scot looked favourite to take the first set when he moved 4-2 ahead in the tie-break but from there he spectacularly imploded, making errors on five successive points to hand it to Wawrinka.
Murray’s slump continued as Wawrinka twice broke to lead 5-2 in the second set.
But Murray was not quite finished and, after retrieving one of the breaks, the impossible seemed possible when he had two chances to get back to 5-5 but he could not take either and his 30th unforced error was one too many.